David Chipperfield's James-Simon-Galerie has opened on Museum Island in Berlin. The project serves as a new entrance between the Kupfergraben canal and the Neues Museum. The design was made to welcome large numbers of visitors while housing all the additional facilities needed by the museum. Featuring an iconic colonnade above a stone plinth, the project was made to express a classical piano nobile.
Together with the ‘Archaeological Promenade’, the James-Simon-Galerie forms the backbone of the master plan that was developed in 1999 and adopted as the basis for all further planning on Museum Island. The building is sited on a narrow strip of land where Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s ‘Neuer Packhof’ administration building stood until 1938. The gallery forms a physical connection above ground with the Pergamon Museum and links the museum via the Archaeological Promenade at basement level with the Neues Museum, the Altes Museum and the Bode Museum.
Along the gallery's facade, slender columns become a leitmotif. They continue Stüler’s colonnade that originally ended at Neues Museum in a contemporary form, creating a new small colonnaded courtyard between the Neues Museum and the James-Simon-Galerie. As the team outlines, "three flights of wide steps, set between the elongated plinth and the lower colonnade, invite visitors into the building. Arriving at the upper level, visitors enter a foyer with info and ticket counters and direct level access to the main exhibition floor of the Pergamon Museum. The foyer also encloses the cafeteria and opens out onto a grand terrace that, along Kupfergraben canal, runs the full length of the building." The program includes the museum shop, a large cloakroom, temporary exhibition spaces and an auditorium.
As David Chipperfield Architects outline, the architectural language of the James-Simon-Galerie adopts existing elements of the Museum Island, primarily from the external architecture, such as built topography, colonnades and outdoor staircases, making reference to Schinkel, Stüler and the other architects involved in the creation of Museum Island. The materiality of the building in reconstituted stone with natural stone aggregate blends in with the material palette of the Museum Island with its limestone, sandstone and rendered façades, while smooth in-situ concrete was chosen for the interior spaces. The entrance building is named after one of the city’s most important patrons, James Simon, who bequeathed his art collections and excavation findings to the Berlin State Museums at the beginning of the twentieth century.